He had anticipated getting money from students' tuition to service the bank loan, but all the plans came to a halt since the bank denied him the money.
Benon Mugume with students. Photo by Eddie Ssejjoba
Last year, Benon Mugume (52) applied for an additional loan of sh50m from Centenary Bank to complete his nursing school in Lyantonde town.
But the bank managers refused to grant his request because he was still servicing another loan of sh50m he had earlier obtained from the same bank. And on top of that he had lost his job at Salaama Shield Foundation after his contract at the humanitarian organization ended. He had repaid only shs4m for the first loan.
This was a dilemma for Mugume. He had lost his source of income and yet he needed additional money to complete classrooms and Laboratories for Lyantonde School of Nursing and Midwifery, which he needed before he opened the first semester.
He had anticipated getting money from students' tuition to service the bank loan, but all the plans came to a halt since the bank denied him the money. In addition, the bank demanded that he starts servicing the first loan or else his structures plus the land would be confiscated and auctioned.
In fear and desperate for a quick solution, Mugume remembered that he had been saving with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). He approached the offices and learnt that he qualified to access his savings on basis that he had clocked 50 years and that he had lost his job.
He therefore submitted his application and after scrutiny, he received information indicating that he had accumulated shs22million, having saved for four years, since 2010.
Mugume said the money pulled him out of the ditch where he had been stuck. He said that when his bank realized that he had obtained shs22m on his account, they accepted to grant his shs50m loan request that they had denied him. He therefore signed and received the bank loan and with the NSSF money, Mugume came back to life. He embarked on constructing the unfinished structures and the school, located at Kyabazaala in Kirowooza parish on the outskirts of Lyantonde Town off the Lyantonde-Mbarara highway.
The institution offers training of nurses and midwives. Mugume needed at least 120 students for the first intake and by October he had registered 80 students and hoped that many more were coming. The school officially opens in November 2016. He charges shs1.8m for the first semester but students pay shs1.5m for other semesters for the entire course of two-and half years.
By September Mugume had injected shs280m in preparing the institution, including shs70m he used to purchase the seven-acre piece of land on which he started the institution. He said by end of October he will have invested about ss500m.
The money was part of his savings from the previous employment in Zanzibar and Tanzania where he started working in 2006 as a community development planning advisor to the government under the Voluntary Overseas Service.
A born of Ruhaama in Ntungamo district, Mugume came in Lyantonde in 1994 as a school teacher and later turned into a community development worker. After witnessing the devastation that HIV/Aids caused in the area, he conceived a dream to start a nursing training school as one of the solutions to what he had witnessed in the area.
Mugume said that when he started working in the area, he was so disturbed by the effects of the HIV/Aids scourge, and saw students often missing classes to attend burial of parents and close relatives, and some of them would never return at all since the deceased were their main guardians.
He found out that the area lacked healthcare services and had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. He said many mothers died in labor in the hands of traditional birth attendants because there were very few health workers in the villages.
On his return from Tanzania, Mugume, while working for Salaama Shield was involved in conducting a field survey about the top needs of communities in Lyantonde district, and one of his recommendations was that there was need to train more nurses and midwives to help mothers and also give healthcare education to the many residents who had been affected by HIV/Aids.
He knew this would be a big chance for the area where HIV prevalence stands at 15 percent, higher than the national rate. He said many children born with HIV and pregnant women needed more health services and education.
Mugume was disappointed that the organization picked on carpentry and building as the suitable skills for the area, which he said pained him and was determined to bridge this gap using his personal savings.
His mission is therefore to produce as many nurses and midwives as possible, so that there is at least one trained midwife or nurse for each village, and this would be his personal contribution to an area he has served for the biggest part of his career.
Although he is aware of the low income of residents in paying for their children to train in the institution, Mugume said he would engage parents and explain to them the benefits of having more health workers in their area and hoped they will take his advice. He has fully stocked the laboratories and already recruited trained personnel to carry out the training.
Several students have already for orientation and were allowed to attend early classes.
Mugume, the school director, works with his wife, Christine Kansiime, who is the director in charge welfare. They both have six children, the eldest, Emmanuel Tashobya is in his final year at Makerere University. He already employs a number of permanent and semi-permanent workers. The community is already excited to supply a number of items to the school, which include food and other valuables.
To vote for Benon Mugume in the NSSF Friends With Benefits competition - Type "VOTE MUGUME" and send to 8338